The Task Force Marne and Fort Stewart Office of the Staff Judge Advocate held a Prosecution Partnership Agreement Signing Ceremony at the 3rd Infantry Division Museum on Fort Stewart, Georgia, March 22.
The agreement establishes the relationship and responsibilities between the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) and the OSJA in administering the federal misdemeanors and felony prosecution program for offenses perpetrated by civilians and certain egregious offenses committed by service members on FSGA and Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.
“Civilians are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice for crimes committed on the installation,” said Lt. Col. Eric W. Widmar, staff judge advocate, Task Force Marne and Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield. “This can include anything from domestic violence situations - where you have civilian spouses - to drug and weapon offenses.”
Widmar said the Department of Justice is responsible for prosecuting federal offenses in U.S. District Court, whether before a district or magistrate judge. However, the U.S. Attorney may appoint an Army attorney as a Special Assistant United States Attorney with the authority to prosecute civilians in federal court under the supervision of the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The memorandum of agreement creates a felony prosecution program in which the USAO provides resources in the form of training and supervision in order to enable uniformed attorneys the ability to prosecute these more serious offenses in United States district courts.“I think what you will see as a result of this – especially with these serious crimes - is a more rapid prosecution,” said Widmar. “Additionally, since stiffer sentences usually accompany crimes tried in federal courts, it acts as an effective deterrent for criminal activity on the installations.”
Widmar and the Honorable Bobby Christine, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, solidified the agreement with their signatures – coalescing the long-standing relationship the two entities held.
Christine said the agreement also helps develop and strengthen litigation skills for both the Army Judge Advocates directly involved and the Assistant United States Attorneys with whom they will work side by side. Additionally, allowing prosecutors to focus more resources on crimes conducted both inside and outside of military installations increases the safety of our communities where many Marne soldiers and their families reside.
Christine was a Staff Judge Advocate himself in the Army National Guard.
“Direct supervision of your peers will be with folks who understand – who get it,” said Christine during a speech at the ceremony. “I pledge that we will return to you refined and amplified litigators. Anything we can do to make your mission successful, we will do that.”
The 3rd ID OSJA has long had an agreement that allowed Army attorneys to prosecute misdemeanor crimes before a federal magistrate judge. Widmar said this is the first felony prosecution agreement the OSJA has established with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in recent memory.
“This agreement provides another option to hold people accountable, deliver justice to victims and make Fort Stewart and Hunter a safer place for our Soldiers and Families to work and live in,” Widmar explained.